‘$1 billion Ogoni cleanup fund must be reviewed’
There are fears that the aim of the cleanup of Ogoni environment might be defeated, if the initial capital injection of US$1 billion for the project is not reviewed.
Also, government bureaucracy has been blamed for the delay in the take off of the cleanup exercise.MEMBER of the Hydrocarbon Pollution Restoration Project (HYPREP) governing council, Professor Ben Naanen, Naanen, told The Guardian yesterday, that there are lot of challenges that must be taken care off before the cleanup could be said to be successful.
It would be recalled that the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), which conducted an environmental audit of some contaminated sites in Ogoni, had in its recommendation to the Federal Government, suggested that an Environmental Restoration Fund for Ogoniland be set up with an initial capital injection of US$1 billion contributed by the oil industry and the government, to cover the first five years of the cleanup project.
However, Naanen has argued that it has become imperative for a review of the initial $1b to be expended in the first five years of the cleanup. He said cleaning up the environment without addressing some critical social issues, such as health and livelihood of the Ogoni people, would render the whole exercise futile.
He said: “We have never thought that the $1b will be enough because there are lots of challenges. You don’t just address the issue of the physical clean up. People have to address related social issues; livelihood, health and quite a number of issues that are related.
He explained that oil companies responsible for the pollution in Ogoni and the Federal Government have representatives in the HYPREP governing council and they have been discussing these issues with Ogoni community representatives on the board as well.
Naanen, who is also a former provisional president of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), said when the governing council meets to map out programme-by-programme and project-by-project, members try to work out how through co-funding from developmental partners, they could attract additional funding.
According to him: “When we start planning on the implementation of the clean up process, we will know what to do. We will look at how additional money could be easily generated to the initial $1b.”
He pointed out that one of the reasons why the cleanup process had been delayed was because it took sometime for HYPREP, which is the implementing government agency to formally become a federal parastatal and there are all kinds of rules and procedure that has to be followed.